Jalen Rose is convinced point guard is his best position. A groin injury to Travis Best is giving him a chance to prove it.
Rose, who struggled earlier in the Eastern Conference finals, is getting time at point guard behind Mark Jackson as the Indiana Pacers attempt to move past the New York Knicks and reach the NBA Finals for the first time.
Best missed his second consecutive game tonight and Rose hoped to duplicate his Game 4 performance in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series. Rose came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points Monday as Indiana evened the series 2-2 with a 90-78 victory.
The 6-foot-8 Rose, who began his NBA career at point guard with Denver, was particularly effective in the fourth quarter. In the final 12 minutes, he had nine points as Indiana kept the Knicks from staging a comeback.
"Jalen likes to play the point. When he gets the opportunity to play the point, he plays a little better," said Coach Larry Bird, who has used Rose mainly at small forward the past two seasons.
Bird decided to use Rose at the point when New York began pressuring Jackson in the backcourt, frequently double-teaming or trapping him.
"We brought Jalen in to help us out, and his whole game turned around," Bird said. "He likes to have the ball in his hands."
Indiana entered tonight's Game 5 at Market Square Arena having won 12 of its last 13 playoff games at home. The Knicks won Game 1 there, 93-90.
"We have a complete basketball team, guys that are not caught up in minutes, numbers. We are just caught up in winning," Jackson said. "We needed something from Jalen, and he delivered. That's been this team's story all along. It's a credit to guys like Jalen, who can start on just about any team. He does so many things."
Rose smiles when asked if he enjoys coming off the bench and not getting much time at point guard. "I'd be lying to you if I said I don't want to start, or if I'd be happy at point guard," he said. "But, I don't make those decisions. The important thing is we've got a chance to play for a world championship. There are a lot of people who have played in this league, who never had that chance. We know it is within our reach, all we've got to do is kick it in."
Earlier in the series, Bird was critical of Rose for trying to play one-on-one too often and sat him down for much of the opening game.
"The bottom line is we're winning. We're in the conference finals. Let's roll," Rose said. "Coach does a lot of things to motivate. He really doesn't have to tell me when I'm playing badly, but he has his ways and I can live with that."
Rose is Indiana's second-leading scorer in the playoffs with a 12.4 average. He's tied for third on the team in steals (10) and assists (27).
"I'm just excited about playing, contributing. Think about how many players are home today, watching us on television," Rose said.
Asked if he would prefer to start or finish a game, Rose said, "That's a trick question. . . . finishing."
He did that Monday, coming off the bench to play 35 minutes, hitting 8 of 14 shots and pulling down six rebounds.
CAPTION: Indiana's Jalen Rose, right, here with teammate Al Harrington, has been very effective coming off the bench and relieving starting point guard Mark Jackson.